The Hull Daily Mail has joined forces with the parents of soldiers killed serving their country to demand better protection for troops in Iraq.
The paper’s Troops in Peril campaign follows the death of East Yorkshire solider Luke Simpson, (21), who was killed when roadside bombs blew up his Land Rover near Basra.
He is one of at least 20 UK soldiers who have been killed by roadside bombs while on patrol in lightly-armoured Land Rovers since the Gulf conflict began.
More than 300 people have signed a petition which the paper has set up on Prime Minister Tony Blair’s website calling for better protected vehicles for soldiers.
Mail reporter Kevin Shoesmith has obtained exclusive interviews, photographs and video footage from soldiers serving in Iraq showing troops on patrol in soft-top Land Rovers on the streets of Basra.
Defence Minister Des Browne has finally admitted that troops are patrolling in soft-top Land Rovers despite the Ministry of Defence stubbornly claiming this was not the case when questioned by the Mail.
Assistant editor Paul Hartley said: “It’s a scandal that our troops are being asked to risk their lives in vehicles that offer little or no protection against roadside bombs or sniper fire.
“Getting the MoD to admit these vehicles are being used has not been easy. They initially insisted soft-tops were not being used on patrol when our evidence clearly showed they were.
“Luke Simpson is the second soldier from East Yorkshire to be killed on patrol in a Land Rover. However, this issue affects families of troops everywhere. We have spoken to many families from all over the country who are angry about this issue and want the Government to take action now.”
The campaign has the backing of Private Luke Simpson’s father, a former sergeant major who served in the same regiment as his son, the 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment.
It also has the support of local MPs and the parents of other soldiers who were killed in attacks on Land Rovers.